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“It takes courage to stand tall, to hold fast to ones ground in a world forever spinning. You say this is my place. I’m safe here. I will stay. But sometimes our tempest comes and whips the earth up from our roots. We stand diminished and exposed. We are alone. We are naked and we tremble at the prospect of the next shift of the elements.”
This episode dealt with several story lines as Sister Julienne was away at the Mother House on a retreat and Sister Hilda was left at the helm. Pupil Midwife Nancy Corrigan takes her child, Collette, from the orphanage (Fatima Lodge) after seeing bruises. Doreen Norris gives birth in a squalid tenement building infested with bed bugs and rats. The landlord ends up being Mathew Elwood. Sister Francis brought bed bugs back to Nonnatus House….one of my favorite scenes is Trixie and her reaction to having to wash her ‘slippers’ (priceless). Blanche was a surrogate for her childless sister (Sylvia Potts); however, he is born with Down syndrome and Sylvia no longer wants him. Blanche and her husband keep him and vow not to send him away or hide him away. His processing and reaction to having a child with special needs to done in such a realistic and way as faces his own prejudices and actions from the past as a child. Cyril loses his grandfather and Lucille suggests a prayer meeting at the same time as the funeral. His loss makes him realize he does not want to wait to marry Lucille—the date is set!! I think I know our Christmas show😊. Nonnatus House has found a way forward with a large annual donation from Mr. Elwood to carry on the work.
There were two things that I found extremely powerful and they jumped out at me. It was a powerful visual and a powerful verbal message.
The visual message was at the opening of Episode 7 with Sister Hilda and Sister Julienne talking in the main office. Sister Hilda was to assume Sister Julienne’s leadership position while she was gone on a retreat. Sister Hilda moved Sister Julienne’s desk chair to face the window. She stated she thought it would be nice to see the sunlight. Sister Julienne moved it back. She then explained that her back would be to those that enter and that this was not the impression you would want to convey. The verbal message was with Sister Monica Joan’s powerful words. Pupil nurse Corrigan was being chastised by midwife Phyllis Crane upon her return to Nonnatus house with her daughter, Collette as Phyllis felt she had endangered her daughter along with endangering herself. Sister Monica Joan stopped that dialogue and stated “the margins are where we dwell and do his work….. Ask her what it is she desires.”
As a modern day midwife and current educator - these two things struck me as extremely powerful. It is a reminder to each person to examine why I am here as a provider? What is the message I want to send via my physical setting, my body language, my openness to listen and truly hear your needs. People will note the messages that are conveyed, or are not conveyed, within a look or glance, a comforting or disconcerting word, an open heart that is ready to engage and be available to truly listen, truly hear what is needed, and strategize to meet that need. They were such powerful teaching moments for student midwives that every encounter and exchange encourages us all to stop, be nonjudgmental, and open our minds and hearts as we interact with each other.
To be asked “what do you desire” was profoundly powerful for Nancy. She stated: “I want to qualify as a midwife. I want to make a home for Collette and be free to tell her who she is to me and why I love her. I want to have no secrets, to be trusted, to belong, for us to live a life where there are no bruises.” I connected with those words. They appear to be simple; however, they are everything. It is hard to believe that it was not that long ago that many women experienced so much stigma with being an unwed mother, a working woman, or independent. Options were often so limited. To give and receive love appears to be a simple request; however, for many these are desires with multiple obstacles in the way.
As a modern day midwife – we see other injustices in 2021. There are huge disparities with those that we work with ‘on the margins’. How do we go about feeling powerful enough to be at the table? How do we help our clients and families and our communities to be at the table? For many on this globe these are difficult asks to attain. We continue, just like the midwives and nuns of Nonnatus House, to show up, be present, share evidence, listen to views and preferences and wants, process information as a team (shared decision making), and then support their strengths and try to help them bridge their fears or obstacles. Show up – and thank you Sister Julienne and Sister Monica Joan—how you present yourself and how you say things and ask things of others matters!
“We can choose where we live and where we hope to flourish. We can choose to be good, to be brave, to endure … but not the place to which our hearts run nor what our souls may find along the way. Love is its own force. The fruit that we give and we receive. It is the crop that seeds itself and waters its shoots. Love is our harvest. Let us fill our bounds with it. There will never be enough love and there cannot be too much.”
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